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Introduction (part two)

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Blackfriars Bridge (part five)
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At the four corners of the bridge were massive plinths intended to hold monumental bronze equestrian stayues, though no action had been taken by the time the bridge opened. It was not until 1880 that the Bridge House Estates resurrected the project by setting up a competition. Submissions were requested and several sculptors sent in models, but none was found to be suitable. The biggest problem was in finding the right subject matter for the sculpture. The least controversial idea was for historical figures such as Alfred the Great and the Black Prince, but there were also proposals for such subjects as “The Triumph of the City of London” and “Activity Directing Indolence and Sloth to Progress”! After years of indecision, the scheme was dropped in 1886, and lamp standards were placed on the plinths instead. The scheme was briefly revived in 1902, when it was suggested that equestrian statues of Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and the Prince and Princess of Wales should adorn the bridge, but fortunately this was not carried out. The plinths on the south side of the bridge can still be seen, now converted into staircases leading down to the riverbank.


Blackfriars Bridge (part five)

A postcard view of the present Blackfriars Bridge shortly before it was widened. Behind it is the original railway bridge, of which only the piers now remain.



One statue that was erected on the bridge was that of Queen Victoria, though it ha been moved on several occasions, when improvements have been made to the bridge approaches. The statue now stands, atop a red granite plinth, on a traffic island at the north end of the bridge she opened, looking up New Bridge Street towards Holborn Viaduct. It was made by Charles Bell Birch and was unveiled by the Duke of Cambridge on 21 July 1896. The statue was a gift to the City from Sir Alfred Seale Halsam but, as the City discovered later, it was not the only version of the sculpture. It was originally commissioned by the Maharana of Meywar, where it was erected in Udaipur in 1889 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and further copies had already been put up in Aberdeen and in Adelaide, Australia.

By the early years of the twentieth century, trams had become an increasingly popular form of transport, but there was great opposition to them operating in central London. The London Country Council's proposal to run them over Blackfriar's Bridge was delayed by resistance from the City of London, but the LCC won the support of Parliament, and the City finally agreed to the widening of Blackfriars Bridge to accommodate two lies of trams. Work began in 1907 to widen the Bridge by thirty feet on the upstream side, to designs by Sir Benjamin Baker and Basil Mott. This involved digging new foundations to lengthen the piers and rounding off the junction on to the Embankment. The northern approaches to the bridge had long been considered a dangerous place for pedestrians, and this would be worsened by the regular passage of trams, soit was decided also to build a pair of intersecting pedestrian subways, which would be paid for by LCC.


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